October 1, 2004
Kerry's best - and last - chance to swing voters his way
By RUPERT CORNWELL, New Zealand Herald
On a clear day, standing by the memorial not far from where the daily ferry takes workers from
this suburban New Jersey town across the bay into Manhattan, you can see the city shimmering
32km away across the bay.
If you know it well, you can even spot the gap where the two towers once stood.
The memorial is a 152cm-tall slab of black granite, standing just above the beach, between two
American flags fluttering in the gentle breeze. It carries an engraving of the old New York skyline,
and a simple inscription: "In Memory of All Those Who Perished on September 11, 2001. Never
That day, Middletown lost 36 people in the destruction of the World Trade Centre and neither it
nor New Jersey, nor the country, has forgotten.
Indeed, so powerful is the memory that even before the first presidential debate, it may have
already settled the outcome of the 2004 election. When John Kerry squares off with George W.
Bush today on national security and foreign policy, in Miami 2400km to the south, New Jersey
should be on his mind.
For what is happening here, if left uncorrected, will surely doom his presidential bid.
Suburban and secular, with large numbers of blacks, Hispanics and Jews, New Jersey is
supposed to be solid Democrat territory. Bill Clinton, after all, carried the state in 1996 by 18 per
cent, and Al Gore did almost as well in 2000 against Bush.
Middletown is a microcosm of suburban East Coast USA. But something odd has happened.
Just a few weeks ago, Kerry looked set to secure another double-digit win for the Democrats. No
One poll just after the Republican convention showed Bush within hailing distance; another last
week put the two candidates dead level.
Terror is not the only explanation for this unscripted turn of events.
The state's most populous north- eastern region is, to all intents and purposes, part of the New
York television market, and was thus drenched in coverage of a very successful convention.
The local Democratic establishment has been thrown into turmoil, first by allegations of corruption